Di Matteo: Players answered critics
Roberto Di Matteo claimed his Chelsea old guard delivered the perfect response to their critics with the 2-1 FA Cup final triumph over Liverpool - but flat-batted speculation over his own future on yet another day of triumph for the Blues at Wembley.
Roberto Di Matteo: 'It's quite special'
Goals from Ramires and Didier Drogba proved enough to repel Liverpool's late rally, with Petr Cech making an incredible save to deny substitute Andy Carroll, who had already pulled the Merseyside outfit back into the game.
Inspired defensive performances from John Terry and Ashley Cole also helped Chelsea on their way to a fourth FA Cup success in six years, in a season that could yet end in Champions League glory as well.
It represents an incredible turnaround from their mid-season slumbers, which resulted in the sacking of Andre Villas-Boas. But interim manger Di Matteo never did feel his club's stalwarts were past it.
''We've had a difficult season and a lot of criticism,'' he said. ''But the players responded today to all the adversity we've faced. The answer was today on the pitch. The football is always the best way to deliver the answer.''
Drogba became the first player to score in four finals, Terry became the first captain in the modern era to lift the trophy on four occasions, while Cole was collecting an incredible seventh winners' medal.
''He's not 65. He's a top professional,'' Di Matteo said of Drogba's contribution.
Inevitably, discussion then turned to Di Matteo himself. A stop-gap when he was asked to step in following Villas-Boas' exit on March 4, the Italian has performed an incredible restoration job.
He is now odds-on favourite to be handed the reigns on a permanent basis and it is hard to see how owner Roman Abramovich could justify dispensing with his services if Chelsea are triumphant against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena on May 19.
Yet Di Matteo has not spoken to Abramovich about his specific situation, and insists he is happy to let ''the boss'' come to the correct conclusion.
''It's irrelevant,'' the Italian said. ''The boss will make the decision and we'll respect it. The players will be fine. I am very fortunate person, so it's not an issue for me. I'll speak to him, don't worry. I speak to him in general.''
Liverpool anager Kenny Dalglish was left to lament his side's inability to make an impact until Carroll was introduced just before the hour mark.
''We were excellent for the last half hour, but the game lasts for 90 minutes,'' said the Scot. ''You can't give a team like Chelsea a two-goal head start.
''It's credit to our lads that they went close to an equaliser after Andy scored, but they had left themselves too much to do. I don't think the first hour was a reflection of the quality of the players we had out there but I don't know if that's was down to inexperience.''
Nevertheless, in accepting Liverpool have endured a woeful league campaign, Dalglish does think some valuable lessons have been learned after appearances in both domestic cup finals.
''Whether there were [any new players joining the club] wasn't going to be dictated by today's result,'' he said. ''These players will get better and benefit from this experience - they've been in two cup finals in this season.
''They'll have enjoyed the first one more than the second but they'll know what it takes to get some enjoyment.''